Reflections on Chef’s Table – Massimo

I was watching the first episode of Chef’s Table, on Massimo‘s Italian restaurant, how he has become a national treasure, despite early on being considered treasonous by traditionalists. His creative energy and artistry is palpable; reminding me of the Italian Engineering professors I encountered while working administration in a Computational Engineering department. The professor I supported was from New York and would host professors from Italy, Spain, Argentina, Norway. They would often go to local modern Italian trattorias and coffeehouses for brainstorming sessions. They were some of the most energetic, imaginative people outside of artists I ever met.

Photo by Farideh Sadeghin c/o Saveur

I try not to delve into politics on this blog, but I am very concerned. We may be losing our grip on the very engine that made America a leader in science, technology and innovation with our current administration. There’s a great three part program on Netflix right now about three cities….Vienna 1908, Paris in the 1928’s and New York in the 1951’s. Bright Lights, Brilliant Minds. New York took over the spot as the center for new art and creativity in large part because of the great European diaspora after WWII. We can thank this for the introduction of cafes to America and the energy of New York unlocked the potential of an entire generation of artists and writers.  Similarly, Americans brought enormous creativity to Paris during the 1920’s, as did artists from Japan.

There is a growing ferment in the world that would have countries lock themselves down, despite the fact that acts of terrorism are more often occurring with radicalized, mentally ill citizens. Economic anxiety and policies of austerity are causing birth rates to drop…triggering fears amid white Europeans and Americans that their time is waning, giving rise to supremacist movements. Yet little attention is paid to labor issues, living wage issues, mental health issues, education issues.

Populations are electing governments that promise to close countries off from immigrants while they continue to starve supportive sectors like education, heath, housing, sciences, the arts. All these efforts fuel the fires that could extinguish Western Civilization and its potential rather than preserve it….or develop it! Where will the next great center of science and the arts be? Could be Dubai, Oslo or Hong Kong.

We devote our budget to fighting wars on ‘terrorism’…but without support for infrastructure, science, housing, arts, education….where will our next engineers, artists or talented chefs come from…what are we fighting for?

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